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A Sea of Fear



A Sea of Fear

Joshua J. Masters |

Fear prevents us from experiencing the extraordinary in our lives. But embracing a heart of trust in Christ creates the opportunity for unimaginable hope.






extraORDINARY
Message 3 • A Sea of Fear
Joshua J. Masters
July 10, 2022

A. INTRODUCTION

Good morning, Brookwood.
Today we’re continuing our series called, extraORDINARY.

And as we’ve explored some of the interactions Christ had with the disciples, we’ve seen how ordinary people can encounter an extraordinary God.

This week, we’re going to look two familiar Bible stories in a message called, “A Sea of Fear.”

Based on that title, what do you think the two stories are?
-Jesus calming the sea.
-Jesus walking on water.

Familiar stories, but those are often the ones that we skim over, isn’t it?

And in both these stories, we find that the disciples are terrified.

Fear is one of the greatest reasons we struggle in the Christian walk and in our faith.

Fear prevents us from fulfilling God’s purpose in our lives and it strangles the mission of the church.

But this is not a message about bucking up and getting the work done.
It’s not a pep-talk to say, “Come on, we can make it happen if we stop being afraid.”

The truth is, we CAN’T make it happen.
And that’s WHY we’re afraid, isn’t it?

There are storms in our lives we CAN’T overcome.

But fear prevents us from trusting God can.

If you take notes, write this down.
Fear prevents us from experiencing the extraordinary in our lives .

It paralyzes us… or worse, it pushes us to make unhealthy, even destructive decisions.

And the sea is a perfect analogy for our fear because it drowns us—it swallows us alive, dragging us under.

And we’re unable to escape its undertow without rescue.

For the disciples, some of those great moments of fear literally took place on the sea.

The first one is found in Mark, Chapter 4.

So, go ahead and turn or swipe there in your Bibles. (pg. 804)
We’ll start at verse 35.

Jesus has been teaching to large crowds at the edge of the sea. People were standing on the shore as Jesus taught from a boat.

Now, Mark 4:35:
As evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Mark 4:35–37 (NLT)

Because of the nature of Galilee, the lake is prone to sudden and violent storms.

Of course, fisherman wouldn’t be afraid of a regular storm… this had to be a major, life-threatening storm to frighten them.

And where is Jesus?

v. 38
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with His head on a cushion. The disciples woke Him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t You care that we’re going to drown?” Mark 4:38 (NLT)

So, the boat is taking on water, these men are certain they’re going to drown, and they’re terrified.

I think one of the best depictions of this moment is Rembrandt’s painting, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633).

Now, I’m not in Rembrandt’s head, of course, but here’s what I love about this painting:

To me, if you look at each man closely, they represent all the different ways we respond to fear… even today.

Let’s zoom in first on the disciples in the bow (or front) of the ship.

How are these men responding to the fear?
They are doers—fixers.

These are the men who combat fear by fighting the unbeatable, sealing their defeat in busyness.

When it comes to fight or flight responses, these are the fighters.

“I will fix this! I will make it happen!”

Now, when we’re in a storm, there’s a certain amount we are expected to do.

But these men have watched Jesus perform miracle after miracle, yet they’re still relying on their own skills to save them rather than Christ.

Now, let’s look to the stern of the boat.

We see three responses to fear here.

See this guy in red up front?
He’s clearly throwing up.

He has so surrendered to his anxiety that he can’t do anything except make himself sick.

For the record, I was that guy for a long time.
I struggled with paralyzing anxiety for years and that made me afraid of everything.

Now look at the crowd surrounding Jesus. Their response is to complain.
“Don’t you care, Jesus?”
“Someone needs to do something.”

Do you know anyone who is complainer by nature?

If you don’t know anyone in your friend group, it’s probably you.

Finally, and most unsettling is the guy turned away in white. See him on the left?

He’s just sitting there with his head down and back turned.

I think it’s because he’s hopeless… He’s just given up.

Listen to me… If you feel that way today, don’t give up. Let us walk with you.

We can help you take next steps.

Which one are you?
The fixer, the anxious, the complainer, or the hopeless?
Because all these responses to fear are still crippling people today.

Fear is all around us.

Fear of the future.
Fear about relationships or sickness.
Fear of war.
Fear of election outcomes.
Fear of the economy.

We’ve got rioters trying to cover their fear with anger (and anger is almost always rooted in fear).

We’ve got the hopeless and the sick being ignored.

And we’ve got the complainers spreading doubt and stoking fear on social media.

Ordinary fear prevents the extraordinary from happening in our lives because…

B. Fear embraces…
1. An UNCERTAIN future.

Rather than moving forward with hope, fear causes us to focus on uncertainty rather possibilities of what God will do.

We never see the opportunities God puts in front of us if we’re negatively focused on the uncertainty of our future.

Who here has an uncertain future?

If you didn’t raise your hand, I’ve got bad news for you.

James 4:
Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. James 4:14 (CSB)

Everyone’s future is uncertain.
But fear makes us hyper-aware of our uncertainty and begs us to wrestle control away from God.

Fear is a desire to control the uncontrollable.

But we can’t control the future.

So, the only way to avoid fear is what?

To trust the one who actually is in control.

Look at Hebrews 6:

So God has given both His promise and His oath... Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.
Hebrews 6:18–19a (NLT)

When the storm comes, we need an anchor. And the only anchors that hold are the promises and sovereignty of Christ.

That’s the only way to move forward with confident hope in an uncertain world.

He’s the navigator, not us.

In fact, here’s a funny little piece of trivia:

What was Jesus sleeping on in the boat?

A Cushion.

Some scholars believe every boat would have had a cushion.

You know who it was for?

The helmsman.

And what does the helmsman do?

He directs the ship.

Jesus was taking a nap in complete peace during the storm because He’s the ultimate helmsman and the ultimate anchor…

And also, because He was in complete union with the Father.

So, there’s nothing to be uncertain about.

Listen carefully:

We’re not actually afraid of uncertainty.

We’re uncertain because we’re afraid. <REPEAT>

See the difference? Because even if we don’t know the outcome (and none of us do) we can have assurance in who’s directing the boat… who’s dropping the anchor.

The uncertainty doesn’t cause our fear.

Our fear creates uncertainty in us.

Because fear distorts our view of God.

B. Fear embraces…

2. An UNCARING God.

Now, God is certainly not uncaring. But when we embrace our fear—when we dwell in it, we begin to warp our sense of God so we can justify our fear.

And when we do that, we start to believe God is uncaring or unconcerned with our struggles.

Let’s be honest.

(You don’t have to raise your hands.)

But how many people here, in the midst of a tragedy, or grief, or struggle have thought, “God doesn’t even care.”

I’m not asking that to make you feel guilty.

I asked it to let you know you’re not alone.

That is the ordinary human response. David’s Psalms are filled with cries asking God where He is and why He doesn’t care what’s happening.

It’s an ordinary response that steps in the way of extraordinary deliverance.

And that’s exactly where the disciples are in this story.

Look at v38 again:

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with His head on a cushion. The disciples woke Him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t You care that we’re going to drown?”  Mark 4:38 (NLT)

Jesus! Don’t you care?!

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

Does Jesus care what you’re going through?

Does He care about your job?

Does He care about your pain?

Does He care about your loneliness?

Is He a distant God or a close God?

Romans 8:15:

…you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15 (NLT)

Do you see how this verse ties the concept of fear and slavery together?

That’s because fear chains us to our own limited abilities rather than leaning into Christ’s infinite abilities.

It shackles us to the lies we believe about ourselves rather than seeing ourselves through God’s eyes.

God doesn’t want you to live in fear.

He doesn’t want you crippled by anxiety, or for you to fight through it on your own.

He wants you to trust His power, His strength, and His direction as a loving, Abba, Father.

Abba is an Aramaic word, that is more intimate and relational than just Father.

Now, the truth is, some of us had earthly fathers that didn’t do a very good job showing care in our lives.

But God is a Father that’s never cruel, never leaves, and never abandons.

Are you willing to discover that Father?

Because you have to be willing to let go of the sinking mast and step toward the One who can help you.

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Could these disciples do anything about this storm or their boat taking on water?

Of course, not.

So, they wake up Jesus and say, “Don’t You even care?!”

And what happens?

When Jesus woke up, He rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.
Mark 4:39 (NLT)

In verse 37 the NLT said this was a “fierce storm” but the Greek word there for fierce is actually the same word translated as “great” in this verse.

The word is megas. It means great, loud, mighty, even terrible.

A megas storm yields to the megas peace of Christ.

The calm was equal to the veracity of the storm.

If Jesus can command the winds and the waves—if He can bring complete peace to a deadly storm, don’t you think He can bring peace to the storm in your spirit?

Because all this… everything out here. That’s not what needs calming.

It’s here <point inward>.

This is what needs to be quiet to escape fear.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

Don’t let your fear embrace an uncaring god. God cares more about you than you can fathom.

But how do we learn to trust in that?

That’s the struggle, right?

Continuing in verse 40:

Then He asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey Him!”
Mark 4:40–41 (NLT)

What does Jesus attribute their fear to?

A lack of faith.

--We can embrace uncertainty and an uncaring version of God.

--OR we can embrace trust and hope of His promises.

So, you must embrace faith instead of fear.

And I’m very intentionally using the word ‘embrace’ here (and in the outline) because we get to choose what we cling to.

You can desperately cling to fear.

Or you can decisively cling to the love of Christ.

But to change that perspective, it takes courage.

Sometimes it takes support to learn how to do that, and we will gladly walk beside you in that journey.

You can call our Care Ministries or Adult Discipleship departments and we’ll help you take next steps.

But ultimately, you decide if your actions are going to be fear-based or faith-filled.

And the first step is to DECIDE to trust God---even if you don’t know how.

Just make a decision to trust.

In Celebrate Recovery we say, if you’re not willing to trust God, are you willing to become willing?

Say, “God, I have no idea how to do this and I’m probably going to fall multiple times, but I’m deciding to learn to trust You.”

Because:

C. Faith embraces…

1. An UNDAUNTED trust.

Now, not everyone uses that word, and I almost used another word but undaunted really is the best word here.

So, who knows what it means?

(Not discourage/ not disheartened / showing courage/brave)

Undaunted. adj.

Courageous, Brave… not subdued or depressed by fear.

-The American Heritage Dictionary.

That doesn’t mean you’re never afraid… it means it never controls you.

Jesus had told the disciples they were going to the other side of the lake, but when an obstacle was put in front of them, they lost faith in what Christ had told them.

No one showed undaunted trust in that moment.

But later, they face another storm at sea when someone does… at least for a moment.

Let’s flip or swipe in our Bibles over to Matthew 14 (pg. 784).

Now, for context, JC walked us through the feeding of the 5,000 last week.

And this next passage takes place directly after Jesus miraculously multiplies the food to feed thousands of people and the disciples collect 12 baskets of left overs.

Matthew 14. v. 22.

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that His disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while He sent the people home. After sending them home, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. Night fell while He was there alone. Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.
Matthew 14:22–24 (NLT)

So, this story starts in a similar way. Jesus tells them to take the boat to the other side of the lake.

And now they’re facing a second storm in the middle of the night.

But this time, Jesus is not in the boat with them and the disciples are in trouble.

BUT… v 25.

About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw Him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
Matthew 14:25–26 (NLT)

In their fear.

That’s an important phrase.

Fear always makes us jump to conclusions—usually wrong conclusions.

And that’s one of the reasons we don’t make good decisions when we embrace fear over faith.

Now, to be fair. If I saw someone walking on water in the middle of a storm, I’m not sure my response would have been any different…

But do you see how fear interrupts your ability to process and think clearly?

Immediately, they jumped to the conclusion it was a ghost.

And I have no doubt their individual fears fed into the group fear, right?

Someone had to be the first to say it was a ghost then everyone got on board.

Fear multiplies itself in a group.

They’d seen Jesus perform miracles of healing, cast out demons, and calm the storm. But they’d never seen Him walk on the surface of the lake.

And because, in their fear, they assumed a ghost, they didn’t see Christ at work.

So, Jesus reassures them.

Verse 27:

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” He said. “Take courage. I am here!”
Matthew 14:27 (NLT)

I wonder how much less fear we’d have in our lives if we could embrace that statement from Christ—if, when the storm comes, we could remember that Christ says, “Don’t be afraid. Take courage. I am here.”

Jesus walks above the storm.

The waves that frighten you are humbled under the feet of Christ.

They’re just pavement to Him.

And if we could remember that, maybe we could have undaunted trust rooted in faith.

Like this… Verse 28:

Then Peter called to Him, “Lord, if it’s really You, tell me to come to You, walking on the water.”
Matthew 14:28 (NLT)

I want you to think about this for a minute. A few chapters ago, Peter was one of the men crying out in the storm, “Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?!”

Now, Peter in another storm says, “I see you Lord, and if it’s You, let me walk on the water with You!”

Same man… but with a different focus.

--When he clung to his fear, all hope was lost.

--When he clung to faith, even without knowing what was going to happen, he became courageous.

And notice how he asks for the Lord’s command.

Peter is an impulsive guy.

I’m surprised he didn’t just jump out of the boat… but he asks Jesus to command him to come onto the water.

If we want to see miracles in our lives, we need to seek His command over our own desires.

And when Peter did that, the unimaginable happened.

Because:

C. Faith embraces…

2. UNIMAGINABLE outcomes and hope.

Peter says, let me come to you on the water…

Verse 29:

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.
Matthew 14:29 (NLT)

Peter didn’t just step out of a boat.

Peter stepped out of the ordinary into the extraordinary.

How many people have heard the phrase “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat?”

I think that’s the wrong phrase.

Because it’s focused on the boat.

Don’t focus on getting out of the boat.

Focus on where Christ is and move toward Him.

If Peter had been focused on the boat, I don’t think he would have gotten out.

Peter moved in unity with the Spirit of God, focused on Christ.

That could be another fill-in. Faith embraces unity with the Spirit.

And when Peter did that, his ordinary abilities became extraordinary as he walked toward Jesus.

But we all know the story, he takes his focus off Jesus and he begins to sink.

v. 30:

But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt Me?”

Matthew 14:30–31 (NLT)

The Greek actually indicates more tenderness here than how it comes across in English. It’ still a rebuke but there’s compassion.

Peter experienced a true unity with the Spirit. We always focus on how he took his eyes off Christ and fell, but he’s the only one that had the undaunted trust to walk on water.

And look what happens in verse 32:

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.
Matthew 14:32 (NLT)

Again, Jesus calms the storm but this time, without a word.

But you know what I love about this verse?

Jesus gets in the boat with him.

Jesus could have said, “Well, you really let me down. You are a disappointment and I’ll just meet you on the other side of the lake.”

But Jesus doesn’t do that.

He lifts him out of the storm to a place of safety and then stays where Peter and the disciples are at.

Even if they’re not ready to walk across the rest of the lake.

Listen, some of you need to stop focusing on how many times you’ve slipped into the water and start trusting God is in the boat.

How would it change your life if you stopped believing God is disappointed in you and realized He’s just waiting for you to walk to Him?

Isaiah 41 says this:

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

God wants you to have an undaunted trust, knowing He will pull you out of the water.

God wants you to experience unimaginable outcomes and hope.

But let me very clear… unimaginable outcomes do not always mean the outcome you want.

Undaunted trust means letting go of the outcome without fear.

Look at your first fill-in and your last fill-in.

Do you know what the difference is between an uncertain future and an unimaginable outcome?

Nothing. Only perspective.

In both cases, we don’t know the future or the outcome.

But one is fueled by fear and anxiety.

The other is fueled by faith and hope.

How will we respond?

As individuals and as a church?

Because we WILL face fears.

We will have things that make us afraid.

But we choose how we respond to the storm.

Will we be the fixers, the anxious, the complainers, or hopeless?

There’s one more guy in Rembrandt’s painting we didn’t talk about.

He’s right behind the guy throwing up.

See Him?

His response to fear is to pray.

Now, there’s no indication anyone did that in the biblical story. None of them prayed.

So maybe that’s supposed to be us.

David wrote this prayer:

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. I praise God for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
Psalm 56:3–4a (NLT)

And the promise of God is this:

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 43:2–3a (NLT)

Let’s lean into that when we’re afraid.

If you need help taking those next steps of faith or trust, we’ll have pastors and care volunteers down front or in the care connection room after the service to pray or talk with you.

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